Buying Kettlebells

by Josh Hanagarne on August 12, 2010

I have written about how to buy a kettlebell before, but I’m still getting quite a few questions. So I’d like to shoot out another quick article and tell you what I think the most important and irrelevant characteristics of kettlebells are.

Relevant

The size and shape of the handle. Once you start doing movements like kettlebell snatches, you will realize that if the handle is too wide, thick, think, or worst of all, too long, you could be in for a hard time. With snatches the problem is that the bell has to swing up and over your arm. Whether you are using a 24kg or a 16, it hurts if you do it too often.

The longer the handle gets, the harder it will be to tame the arc and guide it softly to the destination on your wrist. Long handles can also make the rack position (where you hold it prior to a military press at the end of a clean) problematic.

The diameter of the bell.

If it’s too big around, you will again get a funny rack and might have some trouble with your arm once you’re trying to press it overhead. Off-centered weight is one of the best reasons to use Russian kettlebells for strength training. But off-centered and enormously too-wide and you’re asking for problems.

Test a few out. I would go with whichever bells feel the best in the rack for you. If you really want to get standardized, I recommend Perform Better’s competition kettlebells. They are all the same size, no matter how heavy they get. Very cool for juggling too.

Quality

You might think this would be harder for a novice to gauge, but trust me, you can do it. Go into Dick’s sporting goods or Sports Authority and look at their crappy little bells. Tell me you think they are good quality. Nope! You can’t do it, can you? Once you order a good one, you’ll never go back.

PS: Despite my issues with some of their methods, I really do believe Dragon Door Kettlebells are the best quality.

Irrelevant

Price

I know, it sounds crazy, doesn’t it? But here’s the thing. Shipping a big iron ball seems horrible for your psyche and your wallet, I know. But if you find a decent quality kettlebell in a used store, guess what? It is going to cost more per pound. Maybe two or even three times as much as buying online would. The cost evens out, it really does.

Pay for quality and I guarantee you, you’ll be less worried about shipping.

If you’d like a more in-depth buying guide or other brands, I wrote this page on kettlebell resources. If you’re more interested in my experience with actual kettlebell training, you can read that as well.

Have fun!

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Jennifer August 13, 2010 at 11:57 am

I certainly don’t believe that Dragon Door are the best kettlebells. They are good, but the price is ridiculous. I’ve bought almost an entire set of Kettlebells USA kettlebells and they are just as good as Dragon Door kettlebells at half the price. There is nor reason to pay the exorbitant prices that Dragon Door charges for their kettlebells when you can buy a professional quality kettlebell for a lot less money. http://www.kettlebellsusa.com

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Josh Hanagarne August 13, 2010 at 12:24 pm

Thanks Jennifer. I haven’t used the USA kettlebells, but I do like the look of those competition kettlebells. I am currently an RKC, so I get a very slight discount on the Dragon Door’s. When I’m no longer certified, I have no idea if I’ll ever buy another one from them, but I really do like them better than anything else I have tried.

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Alex May 14, 2011 at 1:56 pm

I have to agree with the poster above, Dragondoor kettlebells are among the MOST expensive ones.. Many kettlebells out there featuring the same shape as Dragondoor’s ones, yet cost up to 3-4 times less..just take a look at these prices and brands http://cheap-kettlebells.com

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William McVey December 7, 2010 at 10:25 am

I’m curious as to exactly what you referring to by: “Despite my issues with some of their methods,” in reference to Dragon Door Kettlebells. Is your issue related to their business methods or training methods? I’m seriously considering buying their Kettlebell Quick-Start Kit with Book and DVD and I’d like to know if I need to be “on guard” with anything they recommend. Some context to your less than 100% endorsement of the company (product?) would be helpful.

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Josh Hanagarne December 7, 2010 at 10:44 am

William, it’s related to training methods. The bells themselves are wonderful. Their programs and methods, in my opinion, suffer from the same flaw as any other set program–I don’t believe that there is a one size fits all solution to fitness. I don’t follow programs to the letter anymore. I do not follow reps and sets according to a book or a DVD. I do not perform exercises on Monday because a book says that Monday is get up or kettlebell swing day.

I spend a lot of time as a trainer helping people fix injuries that were caused through people pursuing “textbook” kettlebell form according to a product. I’m tired of it and it’s unnecessary. Nobody needs to get hurt lifting weights to prove they are macho or so they can feel like they’re in the Russian special forces.

Also, one of their premier fat loss experts is also extremely overweight. This in no way diminishes his value as a human being, but I think taking people’s money to help them achieve a “better, healthier life,” when that is obviously lacking in your own life, is wrong. I can’t respect that.

But their kettlebells are awesome. I recommend them first and foremost and will probably always do so.

Also, I’ll say that if you’re looking for camaraderie, Dragon Door is a great place for it. It is a close-knit group of people who generally have fun training together, and talking about the world of strength. I don’t need the club, but I understand it’s appeal.

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Paul Otheim April 29, 2011 at 5:55 pm

This is just an FYI. I own several Apollo KBs, and though they may not be the best and are certainly not used for competition, I like them precisely for the reasons you don’t. I like the thick handles for developing grip strength and the ball diameter of the 32kg/70lb bells are roughly the same as all competition KBs no matter what the weight. Also, if your snatch technique is good, the bell doesn’t swing up and over your arm to bang into your forearm. For learning good technique, visit Denis kanygin at http://www.kettlebellsystema.com/.

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Josh Hanagarne April 29, 2011 at 6:22 pm

Thanks Paul.

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